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Succes Online Financial Education Newsletter


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Avoid hitting your personal debt ceiling

By Jessica Horton, MMI Copywriter

The federal government’s budget woes have brought the topics of financial planning and managing debt to the forefront of the national conversation. The situation has left many people feeling frustrated and helpless, however, the anger we’re lobbing at Washington may be a bit misdirected.

The situation the government is facing regarding the national debt is a scenario that millions of Americans are living on a daily basis. But unlike the government, most people don’t have the option to increase their personal debt ceiling.

There are a number of key financial lessons that you can utilize to help you avoid hitting your personal debt ceiling.

  • Don’t avoid the problem. You can put a bandage on a wound, but if you need surgery it’s ultimately unavoidable. In fact, a “quick fix” will ultimately cost you more in the long-term. If you’re having difficulty paying your bills each month, opening up a new line of credit may be a temporary solution, but it doesn’t address the real issue.
  • Be honest with yourself. What caused you to become overwhelmed with debt? Was it medical bills? Did you lose your job? Or maybe you are living a lifestyle you simply can’t afford. Sit down with your bills, receipts, and checkbook and take a long, honest look at where your money is going. You have to pinpoint the problem in order to determine the best solution. Take this quiz to determine whether you have a healthy relationship with money.
  • Make tough decisions. You cannot spend more than you make. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard. Creating a budget is a necessity. Your budget should be based on your income and your expenses. Use this expense worksheet to help you get started. If you are still having a difficult time creating a budget, MMI offers free budget and debt counseling. The certified counselors at MMI can help you understand your situation and provide you with advice tailored to your personal situation.
  • Prepare to be uncomfortable. Through the budgeting process, you will likely find that you have to make spending cuts and sacrifices. Although it will feel frustrating and overwhelming, it’s important to keep in mind that those feelings are all part of the journey. Getting out of debt is not a fun process, but remaining in debt is much worse.
  • Don’t look back. You will face barriers and setbacks in your journey, but keep moving forward. If you begin to feel discouraged, review the accomplishments you have already achieved. Consistently review your goals and make sure they are realistic. This is your plan, so modify and tailor your goals in a way that will keep you motivated. Most importantly, remain focused on the end result.

The next time you are tempted to look critically at Washington, turn that critical eye on yourself and make a change that you can feel good about.

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Back-to-school money lessons for kids


As a new school year begins, it’s a great opportunity for parents to begin teaching their kids the sound money management skills they’ll need as adults. Wise financial planning encourages wise spending and saving for the future – especially when the lessons are learned at a young age.

When preparing to go back to school, make an effort to get your kids involved in a few of the financial aspects of the process. Here are three learning opportunity ideas you can use to raise your kids’ financial awareness during back-to-school preparation:

  1. Take them shopping for back-to-school items. Explain to them why you make the decisions you make while shopping. Remember to always shop with a list. Shopping with a list helps children understand how prior preparation can lead to great savings in the end. Make sure they understand that a “new” school year doesn’t mean everything has to be “new.” Check to see what your child brought home at the end of last year and see if there are any salvageable school supplies they can use this year.
  2. Get them involved in fundraisers. School and organization fundraisers offer kids the opportunity to earn money and practice raising funds, but lessons in responsible money management come mostly from parents taking the initiative. Fundraisers teach kids goal setting, basic math skills, basic business skills, and overall financial responsibility. Use fundraisers as an opportunity to prune your little entrepreneurs’ goal setting, budgeting, and customer service skills.
  3. Give children an allowance. Many children get allowances throughout the year. However, as the new school year begins consider tying a portion of their allowance (you can call it a “bonus”) to scholastic performance. Be sure to consider both honest effort and results, as every child has strengths and weaknesses depending on the subject. This helps re-enforce the principle of reward for good performance and the value of giving everything your best effort. 

Parents are highly influential when it comes to kids learning how to responsibly earn and manage money. Young adults are now entering a world where they don’t have time to learn financial skills gradually. Often they become victims of poor credit and debt practices before they realize how it even happened. Even if your children are very young, remember that the sooner you start teaching them money and personal finance skills, the more apt they will be to apply those skills when the time comes.

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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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